Italy has produced some remarkable and often innovative battleship designs ever since unification of the Italian States in mid 19th century. In the 1880s Italian
Italia and Lepanto, equipped with huge guns with high speed for the time but with minimal armor caused concern even with the Royal Navy. At the start of
the 20th century Italian designs often introduced new concepts. The
Regina Elena class first laid down in 1901 was an early prototype of a fast battleship but she
sacrificed armor and gun power for her high speed of 21 knots. With
Dante Alighieri of 1909 Italy was first to create a design featuring the triple gun turret as well as
having secondary guns mounted in turrets. Italy always sacrificed armor to have a good armament and especially high speed.
Dante Alighieri was designed for higher
than normal speed at 23 knots. She was laid down June 6, 1909, launched August 20, 1910 and completed in January 1913. Displacement was 19,552-tons (normal)
and 21,600-tons (full load). Although not all designs were physically attractive, Italian battleships were often known for their physical beauty. Before World War One
Italy was allied with Germany and Austro Hungary and considered France as her most likely opponent. Accordingly, her naval construction programs were centered to
counter French moves. Her first three dreadnought designs centered around the 12 inch gun, starting with the
Dante Alighieri.                        

In 1910 three more battleships of a much improved design, the
Cavour Class, consisting of Conte di Cavour, Giulio Cesare and Leonardo da Vinci. Displacement
jumped by over 3,000-tons to 22,800-tons (normal) and 24,300-tons (full load). Although called the
Conte di Cavour Class, the Guilio Cesare was the first of the three
to be laid down on June 24, 1910.
Cesare was launched on October 15, 1911 and completed in May 1914. Length was 577-feet 3-inches (175.88m) overall (554-feet
8-inches (169m) between perpendicular bulkheads)  with a beam of 91-feet 10-inches (27.98m) and draft of 28-feet 7-inches (8.4m). Armament consisted of thirteen
12-inch/46 guns in five turrets, two gun turrets for the superimposed turrets and three gun turrets for the end and amidship turrets. Other armament included eighteen
4.7-inch/50, thirteen 3-inch/50 guns and three 17.7-inch torpedo tubes. The armor scheme called for belt and turret armor of 8 to 9-inches, 11-inches on the conning
tower and an armored deck of 1.5-inches. The power plant in Cesare used 24 Babcock boilers to develop 30,000hp and drive the four Parsons turbines for a maximum
speed of 22.5-knots.
As with other dreadnoughts of both the Italian and Austrian navies, the Cesare spent most of World War One in harbor. She was at Taranto at the start of the war and
was still there in 1st Division Group A in 1916. For the last years of the war in support of operations in the Southern Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Italy suffered one loss
to her dreadnought fleet during the war. Late in the night of August 2, 1916 a fire developed near the aft magazine of the
da Vinci. The captain ordered the magazines
flooded but before that happened, the magazine blew up. The ship capsized in shallow water. Thought was given to raising her but it was decided that it wasn't worth
the effort. She was refloated but only for scrapping. After the war Italy did not have the finances to start new construction and saw no problem with her allowance of
battleships under the terms of the Washington Treaty.

As with most of the western democracies' navies between the wars, there was little to no money for new construction, especially of battleships. The Regia Marina still
had tonnage for new construction available under thee terms of the Washington Treaty but since her main adversary, the French Navy, wasn't building new ships, the
Regia Marina decided to wait as well. It was decided to heavily modify the four surviving Italian dreadnoughts of World War One. This started in 1933 and lengthened
the ship by adding 34-feet (10m) to the bow. The amidships triple turret was eliminated but the barrels in the other turrets were rebored to 12.59-inches (320mm).
Almost everything about the ship was reworked. Displacement was increased to 26,140-tons standard (29.032-tons full load). Length was 611-feet 7-inches (186.4m)
overall and 554-feet 4-inches (168.96m) between perpendiculars, an increased beam to 92-feet 10-inches (28.3m) and draft of 30-feet 9-inches (9.14m). In addition to
reborring the main guns, secondary guns were placed to six twin gun turrets. Other armament consisted of eight 3.9-inch guns, twelve 37mm guns, and twelve
13.2mm machine guns. The torpedo tubes were landed. The armored deck was increased to 80mm over the machinery spaces and to 100mm over the magazines. The
Pugliese defensive system was added. This consisted of a cylinder that served as a crush space to deflect more serious damage to hull spaces. The greatest change
was to the ship's power plant and speed. The machinery was completely replaced. The plant consisted of eight Yarrow boilers supplying steam to two Belluzzo
turbines, developing 75,000hp for a maximum speed of 28-knots.
On October 25, 1933 Giulio Cesare left La Spezia for the Cantieri del Tirono Yard in Genoa for her reconstruction. On June 4, 1937 she returned to La Spezia for
trials and was recommissioned on October 1, 1937. The modernized
Giulio Cesare and Conte de Cavour formed the 5th Division of the 1st Battle Squadron. In 1940
the machine guns were replaced by twin Breda 20mm/65 gun mounts. Italy entered World War Two in June 1940 and it was not long before the Regia Marina came
in contact with the Royal Navy. On July 9th there was a clash off of the coast of Calabria in the Battle of Punto Stilo and
Giulio Cesare was the flagship of the Italian
force. The engagement between
Giulio Cesare and Conte di Cavour was at long range against HMS Warspite. HMS Malaya was also present but never managed to
get in range before the Italian twins used their superior speed to break off the action. In 15 minutes of conflict
Warspite hit both Italian battleships with 15-inch shells.
The shell that hit
Giulio Cesare passed through the aft funnel and exploded below the armored deck, knocking out half of her boilers, which reduced speed to
19-knots. She safely made it to Messina for temporary repairs. After full repairs the twins made two sorties in September 1940 and both were at Taranto on
November 11, 1940 when they were subjected to a night torpedo attack by the Swordfish of The Fleet Air Arm. Unlike her sister, which was beached, the
avoided damage. Following the attack she was moved to Naples. On November 26 Giulio Cesare and Vittorio Veneto with escort steamed out of Naples to
intercept a convoy (Operation Collar from Gibraltar). The British launched air attacks but these were evaded. The next day the Italians encountered the Royal Navy
off Cape Teulada, Sardinia. In a very short engagement
Vittorio Veneto hit HMS Berwick but Giulio Cesare never got within range. The Italian force returned to
Naples without damage.

The British were preparing for Operation Excess and Wellington bombers attacked the Italian Fleet in Naples to prevent their interference with the Operation.
had three near misses and splinters pierced a turbine room causing some flooding. The Pugliese protection system was very effective in preventing more
serious damage. She went to Genoa for repairs and on February 8, 1941 sailed with the intent of intercepting what was thought to be a convoy. In fact this was a
British Force that bombarded Genoa on February 9. The forces never made contact with each other.
Cesare and her escorts went back to Genoa on February 11,
before returning to La Spezia. Towards the end of the year she moved back to Taranto. On December 16, 1941 she steamed out of port to provide distant cover for
convoy M42 bound for North Africa. There was a very brief engagement known as the First Battle of Sirte, before the ships returned to Taranto on the 19th. On
January 3 through 5, 1942
Cesare was again distant cover for convoy M43, which was her final active service. Fuel shortages were critical and the Regia Marina
would rather use fuel for the newer battleships. The battleship remained at Taranto in inactive status until the end of 1942. On December 30, 1942
Cesare left Taranto
for Pola in the Adriatic Sea. Once there she was used only for training and as a barracks ship. After the Italian Armistice the
Giulio Cesare left Pola on September 9,
1943 with a reduced crew for Taranto. During this voyage the ship suffered a failed mutiny and was attacked by five Luftwaffe bombers, which missed. She reached
Taranto on September 11, 1943. The next day she steamed to Malta where she stayed until June 17, 1944, when she returned to Taranto.
Giulio Cesare stayed at
Taranto for the rest of the war.
During the last part of World War Two, the United Kingdom had loaned the Soviet Union the R Class battleship, Royal Sovereign. She was handed over on May 30,
1944 and renamed
Arkhangelsk. This was a temporary respite in lieu of getting a portion of the Italian fleet. After the war Great Britain found it difficult to pry the
Royal Sovereign back from the Soviet Union. Finally in 1949 the Royal Sovereign was returned. After the war the status of the former Italian battleships arose again.
Stalin wanted
Vittorio Veneto or Littorio but wound up with the Giulio Cesare in 1949, although awarded to the Soviet Union in 1947. The ship received modest
repairs at Palermo or Augusta to repair machinery and the electrical system. She was renamed
Z-11 and with an Italian merchant crew steamed to Valona, Albania for
transfer to the Soviet Navy. The Soviets were quick to move in, removing most of the Italian crew to the forecastle. All of the Italians had been removed from the ship
in the next three days. None of the Soviet crew spoke Italian so the signs and notices in Italian throughout the ship had to be translated. From Albania, the battleship
now named
Novorossiisk made its way to the Black Sea.

The primary mission of the battleship was to train new crewmen for the newer Soviet surface ships. From 1949 to 1955 the
Novorossiisk was refitted eight times,
usually for minor repairs and upgrades. When the hull condition was evaluated in 1955, it was estimated that the
Novorossiisk had another ten to fifteen years of service
life. Some of the first improvements made by the Soviet Navy was to replace the broken diesel generators and add radar. In 1953 a refit removed all of the Italian
antiaircraft guns and replaced by Soviet weapons systems. These included six B-II twin 37mm gun mounts and six 70-K single gun 37mm mounts. Fire control
equipment was also replaced and displacement rose by 130-tons.
On October 28, 1955 the Novorossiisk was on a twelve hour training cruise and in the evening was returning to Sevastopol. She reached the harbor, dropped her port
anchor, and moored to fore and aft buoys. A number of officers including the captain went ashore, while the ship's crew settled in for the night. At 01:30 October 29
a huge explosion occurred on the starboard side forward of the first main gun turret. The underwater explosion blew upward through all of the decks creating a hole
13-feet (4m) by 45-feet (14m) in the deck forward of the gun turret. The forward part of the ship flooded and soon the first magazine flooded through damaged
bulkheads. Progressive flooding aft created a cascade effect, as the bow began to settle. Most of the power and communications systems had been knocked out by
the explosion, so damage control was greatly hampered. At 02:00 attempts started to move the battleship to the shore but there was no power to lift the anchor and
apparently no attempts were made to cut the anchor chain. However, the stern was moved towards the shore as the ship pivoted around the anchor. The Black Sea
Fleet commander, Vice Admiral V. A. Parkhomenko came aboard at 02:10. After 50 minutes the forecastle started going below the water. Flooding progressed aft
above the armored deck, steadily decreasing the stability of the ship, which by then had most of the damage control parties from the ships in port aboard the

Damage control emplaced a series of dams in an effort to stop the flooding but they merely slowed it down as the bow settled lower. At list developed to port and
transferring fuel oil to starboard had minimal effect. At 04:15 the port list increased to 20 degrees and she capsized on her port side. The bottom was floating but after
some hours the superstructure settled on the muddy bottom of the harbor. Of the 1,600 men on
Novorossiisk, 608 perished. A secret investigation after the loss found
that the most likely cause for the explosion was a German mine left over from the war and lying on the harbor floor. The damage was consistent with either an RMH
(770-kg charge) or LMB (705-kg charge) and a lot of mud was found inside the hull at the point of the explosion's entry. There was also a crater on the harbor bed in
the vicinity of where the
Novorossiisk had been anchored. Thirteen more of these mines were discovered on the harbor floor. On February 24, 1956 the Novorossiisk
was removed from the Soviet Navy list and on May 4, 1957 the ship was refloated for scrapping.
The Combrig Novorossiisk – Few battleships have such a long service career as Novorossisk. She spent 45 years almost always in active service. After her major
rebuild from 1933-1937, she exhibited the classic good looks of Italian warship design. This continued in her service as
Novorossiisk in the Soviet Navy and has
been captured by the new
Combrig kit. Since the hull sides are so clean in the original ship, there is not a huge amount of detail on the hull sides. The most obvious
feature is the armored belt, running almost the length of the ship. On each side there are three detailed doors located on the top shelf of the armored belt. There are
two rows of portholes and waste/bilge discharge openings. Another attractive feature is the anchor housings on each side. They are recessed in sides of the upper
bow in curved positions.

Unlike the clean sides deck detail is cluttered. The long forecastle ends aft of C turret and has a metal/smooth deck. Panel lines dividing different sections of the deck
are present. There are numerous panel lines on the forward end of the forecastle. These divide the anchor chain run from the centerline, starboard and port panels.
The fittings cast integral to the hull are very fine and clean. These include closed chocks, open chocks, twin boards on a base plates, chain locker entrance fittings,
windlass base plates and deck access coamings with hinge detail. The bollard fittings have the appropriate flared tops. Locater holes are present for the anchor
windlasses. The detailed deck fittings continue from the anchor gear aft to B turret. In addition to the twin bollard and open chock fittings, details include open
chock, deck access hatches with portholes, 37mm AA tubs and a centerline skylight. There are locater holes for small windlasses and locater lines for 37mm
ammunition lockers, cable reel fittings and small boat deck edge positions. The barbettes for A, C and D turrets are cast as part of the hull and have superb around
their circumferences.
There is an indention in the deck for placement of B turret barbette, which is a separate part. Amidships deck runs from B barbeete to the aft face of C barbette. It is
slightly higher than the forward forecastle. On each side of B barbette is a two step rise from the slightly lower forward forecastle. This feature seems to function as a
breakwater. There is less deck detail present here than the forward deck but it certainly isn’t bare. This area is dominated by placement circles for the secondary gun
turrets. Forward of them and forward of C barbette are locater holes for 4-Inch (100mm) gun positions. Locater lines are present for the central superstructure,
ammunition lockers, deck windlasses and a small deck house. Offset to port is and eight hatch machinery space ventilation structure and forward of C barbette is a
raised structure that is the base for separate cable reels and ventilator parts. This position also has a skylight, which is also found aft of B barbette. Other deck detail
amidships includes small dome ventilators, ammunition lockers, and three different types of deck access hatches. There is a deck break from amidships forecastle and
the lower quarterdeck. The quarterdeck is the only deck where wooden planking is found. The plank lines are very fine but lack butt end detail. There are a larger
quantity of equipment fittings on the quarterdeck than amidships but not as many as found on the forecastle. Again there are open chocks, twin bollards, single
bollards, deck access coamings, small ventilators and four different patterns of skylights. Locater lines are present for an angled deck access house and boat positions.
Two locater holes are present for windlasses.

As is standard with
Combrig, the smaller resin parts are cast in three different formats. The largest parts are normally cast singly with casting stalks, thin parts like
decks on a casting sheet and the bulk of the parts on runners. With the
Novorossiisk there are twelve parts cast singly. The largest is the forward tower, which has
integral doors, locating lines for aft platforms and a locating plate for the bridge face. Another part that is cast singly is the upper bridge face for
Cesare, which of
course is used in building the
Novorossiisk. All of the main and secondary turrets all cast singly. The main gun turrets are cast in two patterns. The triple gun turrets
have nice armor plate lines, integrally cast blast bags, and locater squares for the director ears. The twin gun turrets have all of the same detail and also crown cupolas.
The secondary gun turrets are of three patterns with three turrets on each side. The middle turret is significantly larger than the other two. These middle turrets have
nice bottom aprons, cast on director ears, and a cupola on the crown. The smaller forward turrets have the same apron and AA gun tubs on the crown. The aft turrets
are the same shapes and size of the forward turrets but lack the gun tubs on the crown.
A medium size thin resin sheet has twenty-two parts. The largest part on this sheet is the 01 level amidships. This part is crammed with detail. This includes a
multitude of doors in different patterns on the bulkheads, as well as incised square windows. The deck is dominated by the multi-faceted stack base housings with
their locater holes for the stacks. There is also an eight hatch ventilation fitting to the forward starboard area, ammunition lockers, pedestals for 37mm gun tubs, deck
access hatches, locater squares for large ammunition lockers, and locater lines for the 02 level between the forward stack and superstructure tower. Three deck
houses are on the sheet. One is the 02 level between the forward stack and forward tower. This part has six lockers on top and numerous doors and lockers cast on
the bulkheads. Another 02 level part fits between the two stacks. This part serves as the base of two 37mm gun positions. The third deck house is actually a
mainmast lower structure. Parts for the six window forward face and second level of this structure are on runners. Five large platforms are on the sheet. Three of
these are for the aft face of the superstructure tower and the other two for the mainmast tripod. Large and small AA gun tubs are on the sheet. B barbette is on the
sheet and comes with excellent side strake and crown circumference detail. Three other base ring parts are present for the central tower and gun director positions.
Two oval parts with locater holes are not used on
Novorossiisk, as I couldn’t find them on the instructions.
There are twenty-seven runners of parts. The three largest are on a runner, which includes both stacks and the superstructure tower face. The caps on the stacks are
very nice with nice aprons and open to apron level and the bridge face has crisp indented windows. Two other runners have smaller superstructure parts. One has
small deck houses, director posts, and the directors. The other has some access coamings, and smaller deck housings. Six runners have armament. One has the
12.59-Inch main guns with hollow muzzles. One has the gun houses/shields for Soviet 4-Inch AA guns. Another has single 37mm guns for tubs, while a fourth
runner shares the twin 4.7-Inch, twin 4-Inch and four small superstructure parts. Two others have light AA guns that are apparently used on the Italian fits. Nine
runners have fittings and equipment. One has two different designs for the forward face of the mainmast shelter, the
Cavour with eight windows and the
Cesare/Novorossiisk with six windows.. There are also two cable reels on this runner. A second runner has small gun tubs and lockers. A third runner contains gun
platforms, AA directors, and navigation equipment. A fourth has searchlights, cable reels, windlasses, deck winches, and some other structures. A fifth runner has
paravanes, large boat davits and boat launching equipment. The small boat davits in two sizes are on a runner. One runner has small dome ventilators. One has two
binocular fittings. The last of the equipment runners has boat cradles, small windlasses, and more navigation equipment. Seven runners have all or share ship’s boats.
The shared runner contains four dinghies in two patterns, anchors in two sizes, and two small davits. Three runners have motor launches, three large cabin launches
one, two large and two small cabin launches on the second, and two open launches on the third. Two runners have open boats in two patterns. The last runner has
six Carley floats.
The kit comes with a fairly large brass photo-etch fret with common parts and specialized parts for Novorossiisk, Conte di Cavour, and Giulio Cesare. The largest
of the brass parts are two different flying boat decks. One has bendable lattice side and is apparently used in one or both Italian builds. The
Novorossiisk flying boat
deck does not have the lattice sides. Instead it has separate braces. Five of the medium size parts are also platforms, two go on the mainmast, two are just forward
and on either side of C barbette, attaching to the top of the forecastle deck and overhanging the quarterdeck. The fifth is a starfish but this is not used for
Novorossiisk. The stacks get grills/clinker screens, vertical ladders and a siren platform for the forward stack. Turrets get vertical ladders with two secondary
turrets getting strakes. Other parts are different sized cable reels, windlass tops, accommodation ladders, AA director detail’ chocks, braces and inclined ladders for
the flying boat deck; gun shields for open twin 37mm guns; mainmast braces, yard lattice, radar, and boat boom pulleys; ship’s boat details; B barbette base detail,
forward tower details include platform bracing, forward face bracing, foremast lattice yard, small triangular platforms, radars, antennae, foremast bracing and
inclined ladders. Ten long runs of two bar railing with bottom scupper provides for the models railing.

The instructions are in the improved
Combrig format with nine pages. Page one is 1:700 scale profile and plan with history and specifications in English. Page two
has resin parts laydown. Page three has the brass parts laydown and a template for cutting masts, yards and davits. Page four starts the actual building steps with
attachment of the initial parts for the hull and detailed insets for cable reels and accommodation ladders. Page five concentrates with insets on assembling main gun
turrets, secondary gun turrets, 4-inch gun mounts and open 37mm gun mounts. Page six has hull fittings and turret attachment with insets for the flying boat deck
and AA directors. Page seven has 01 level and stack assembly. Page eight has the assemblies of the mainmast and forward tower/foremast. Page nine has final
assembly with the addition of some additional small parts.
The Combrig 1:700 Novorossiisk provides a compete, detailed mode of one of the oldest serving battleships, serving from World War One to well into the atomic
era when most battleships of any era had disappeared. With the Soviet AA gun mounts it certainly supplies a different build than the Italian fit kits for
Giulio Cesare
Conte di Cavour.
Steve Backer
Hunstville, Alabama